Former Gallatin Green Wave gridiron standout and current Hendersonville resident Jeff Holt continues to live his life with integrity and consistency.
The same intangibles he learned on the field nearly 40 years ago carry him through his day-to-day life as the owner of Personal Health and Fitness in Hendersonville.
He has been the owner since 1994 and says his passion for helping people came during his days as a graduate assistant at Vanderbilt University.
“When I was a strength coach in college I took pride in doing a good job with all the athletes I worked with, and when I started managing at Baptist Hospital Base Fitness, I was not able to work with people in that manner, and I missed that, so I started looking into the personal fitness industry and decided that is what I wanted to do. I have been very blessed.” Holt said.
Holt holds two degrees from Vanderbilt University, both in education. Holt earned his B.S in Education before getting his Masters Degree in 1986.
Moving to Gallatin
Growing up, Holt was no stranger to moving vans, as his father worked for RR Donnlley & Sons.
Born in Indiana, Holt lived in the Hoosier state, along with Connecticut and Illinois, before settling in Gallatin, Tennessee, at 10 years old, after the company built a plant in the city in 1975.
Holt recalls not enjoying the always-changing scenery, but finally experienced continuity once he and his family got to Gallatin.
“It was not fun, because we would be somewhere two years then pack up and move and it would be like starting over. As a kid, you want to try and fit in and get to know everyone, and that is hard when you are always moving. When we got to Gallatin (RR Donnlley & Sons) wanted to move us again, but my dad asked them if we could stay in Gallatin until I graduated, and that is what they did.”
After Holt graduated from Gallatin in 1982, RR Donnlley & Sons moved Holt’s parents to South Carolina.
Playing football for Calvin Short and the Green Wave
Once Holt established a base in Gallatin, making friends was easy. Having a common bond on the football field allowed the transition from new guy to gridiron standout seamless.
Holt cites that growing up as a kid in Gallatin, all you wanted to do once you got to high school was play football.
“I remember going to all the games as a kid and seeing them win all the time. Your ambition as a kid was to be a star at Gallatin High School and have a chance to win a state championship,” he said.
Playing for coach Calvin Short, Holt experienced his share of victories and heartbreaking defeats.
He also experienced something very few people get the chance at as he shared the field with both his brothers, Scott and Darryl.
“The biggest memory for me with those guys was the camaraderie and getting to know your teammates. The bottom line is you are with those guys for so much time during each day you get to know them. That was the best part,” Holt said.
During his time with the Green and Gold, Holt starred as both quarterback and free safety, quarterbacking one of the better teams in school history never to win a state championship in 1981.
“We had one of the best, if not the best team, to ever come through Gallatin. We were talented across the board; we were physical and tough. Turnovers killed us in two games, but we dominated everyone else we played.”
While Holt surely loved shinning at quarterback, he adds that playing defense was a different animal under coach Jim Barron.
“Playing offense was fun, but the defense was a different bird. The defense was about dominating the other team and putting a big hit on someone and letting them know it would be that way the whole game.”
Holt’s defensive prowess earned him multiple scholarship offers in the Southeastern Conference, but it was the two state schools that caught his eye.
“Choosing Vanderbilt came down to the vibes I got from the coaching staff at that time,” he said. “The ‘Dores were on their way up, and that was the feeling I got from the players I met. I wanted to be apart of that.”
Life on West End
Holt describes his four years playing for Vanderbilt as a rollercoaster ride, an up-and-down experience that forced him to battle through adversity.
After a freshman season that ended in a bowl game, Vanderbilt and Holt experienced an injury-riddled sophomore season that saw 2-9.
“My freshman year, they needed help on offense, so I played tailback, and after the season was over, they recruited a former teammate of mine.”
Carl “Goo Baby” Woods joined Holt on West End for Holt’s sophomore year and beyond, allowing the hard-hitting safety to return to the defensive side of the ball.
“It was surreal playing with him again,” he said. “We had fun playing, but the best part was watching someone you know to grow up and become a great person - that was cool.”
After starting the season 4-0 his junior year and ranked 16 in the country, Vanderbilt was again bitten by the injury bug, derailing their campaign at 5-6.
More of the same occurred for Holt’s senior season as their starting signal-caller was knocked out for the season in the first game, resulting in a true freshman taking over for the remainder of the year.
“That destroyed us,” he said. “My four-year playing career was up-and-down, it was fun, but it was also frustrating at times.”
Life after football
After his playing days on West End, Holt received an invitation to NFL Training Camp with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders but said the decision to return to school was best for him.
“If you were not the top dog right away, they would use you for reps, so I had a decision to make. I could either spend the whole summer training preparing for training camp while having to juggle working somewhere to pay rent, or I could go to graduate school that was all paid for,” Holt added.
After graduate school in 1988, Holt accepted a job as the Assistant Director of Baptists Hospital Base Fitness Center in Nashville, which he held for nearly six years.
Jeff is married to his wife Rhonda of 23 years, and the two have two sons together, Brad (29) and Trey (20).
They currently reside in Hendersonville.